C?O?M?M?U?N?I?T?Y

by John Stintzi

John Stintzi is a non-binary writer who was raised on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. A selection of poetry and fiction can be found in Los Angeles Review of Books, Nat. Brut, PRISM International, Black Warrior Review, and in their poetry chapbook The Machete Tourist (knife | fork | book, 2018). Stintzi currently lives in Kansas City with their girlfriend and two stuffed animals from IKEA, and is working on completing their first novel as well as their first collection of poems.

 

Not every wolf in sheep’s clothing is hungry, not every actor
acts in their role.

Today, tomorrow, and too many days before
are defined by an in-sense of dispossession, of my sheepish
huddling among carnivores.

Fold or pack or herd
or mob: no collective noun has a room for me.
Acronym’s bust at my weight: thinlone, hearthurt, unsure
whose skin exactly I want to be bunching in.

I exist in daylight. Pig triplets slam doors, Red Hooded girls dig mace
from their purses, farmers lift far-pointing rifles to their shoulders
while the sheepdogs give chase. It’s exhausting:

to be nothing, to be uncertain, to be certain
only in that you don’t feel at home in your kind
while terrified you’ll never fit in outside of it—
in a Q, a +, or an asterisk.

I sling sheep-names on myself in the night and chew gristle in the sun,
but I’ve cried sheep for so many evenings that even I—like Cassandra
giving guidance to a mirror—don’t believe me.

I have been an isolated interrogation of myself long enough to learn
nothing. I follow the sheep from the tree-line, yet know what my pack feels.
In the venn diagram of wolf and them I am
in another room, in a different tale, reaching a terrible conclusion
where both
this fleece and this fur feels equally exclusive, where I feel
I’ve been the question too long that the answer has grown stale.

To persist as the question seems like the only way to feel certain of being part
of something, while also knowing that to question is to not be fully
within it, is to feel scrutinized and afraid of finding out
I’m just misled into trying on skin-tight queerness.

What if
this question has been leading, has simply been an exploration
into a progressive citizenship that ends with feeling comfortable
in my incisors again?

To be the question is to feel included
conditionally.
To be the question is to feel suspended
from life.

Many have forgotten how Aesop’s sheep-dragged wolf was slaughtered
at the end of the fable by the shepherd, hungry for mutton.
Many have forgotten how all bones turn to soup when soaked too long.

 


John Stintzi is a non-binary writer who was raised on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. A selection of poetry and fiction can be found in Los Angeles Review of Books, Nat. Brut, PRISM International, Black Warrior Review, and in their poetry chapbook The Machete Tourist (knife | fork | book, 2018). Stintzi currently lives in Kansas City with their girlfriend and two stuffed animals from IKEA, and is working on completing their first novel as well as their first collection of poems.

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